Malay is a consistent alphabetic orthography with complex syllable structures. The focus of this research was to investigate word recognition performance in order to inform reading interventions for low-progress early readers. Forty-six Grade 1 students were sampled and 11 were identified as low-progress readers. The results indicated that both syllable awareness and phoneme blending were significant predictors of word recognition, suggesting that both syllable and phonemic grain-sizes are important in Malay word recognition. Item analysis revealed a hierarchical pattern of difficulty based on the syllable and the phonic structure of the words. Error analysis identified the sources of errors to be errors due to inefficient syllable segmentation, oversimplification of syllables, insufficient grapheme-phoneme knowledge and inefficient phonemic code assembly. Evidence also suggests that direct instruction in syllable segmentation, phonemic awareness and grapheme-phoneme correspondence is necessary for low-progress readers to acquire word recognition skills. Finally, a logical sequence to teach grapheme-phoneme decoding in Malay is suggested.